Friday, June 27, 2014

Live Action Salad Station

By Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

Executive Chef Scott wanted to showcase the beautiful and delicious produce that has been arriving in store from local farms, and what better way than with a Live Action Salad Station on June 26, 2014. Chef Scott set up a display in the Concord store produce department with the help of the produce manager, Shawn.
Executive Chef Scott Jones Live Salad Station

You could choose from a baby arugula with goat cheese and maple hazelnut vinaigrette salad, Chipotle grilled chicken Caesar salad or a Asian mixed greens with miso dressing salad. Chef Scott had a good time talking with customers about the local and organic ingredients he was using. One of the featured items was the Co-op's very own Hoop House organic lettuce mix that you can find in the produce cooler.
Executive Chef Scott Jones Live Salad Station

My favorite recipe was the chicken Caesar that was topped with a corn bread croûton made fresh from the Bakery Box, though the Asian greens salad was proving to be popular too. If you are looking for the recipes, download a recipe card by clicking here and you can find all the ingredients in the Co-op. You can also ask for the dressing, made fresh from the Celery Stick Cafe chefs. call them at 603-225-6840.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Grafton Village Cheese and The Imported Grape

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist at the Co-op

The June Cheesy Wine Down Wednesday at the Co-op had some extra special guests from Grafton Village Cheese Company in Vermont. Dane Huebner, the master cheese-maker, with Mary were well received by our foodie participants and gave a very informative talk about cheese making before guiding us around a plate of aged cheddars, a clothbound cave aged cheddar, a maple smoked cheddar and a Vermont Leyden. Grafton Village Cheeses are handmade in small batches in Vermont. All the cheeses are suitable for vegetarians and use unpasteurized milk. Their international and national award winning cheeses are made with predominately Jersey cows milk that is rBST-free from small local family owned farms.

Grafton Village Cheese is part of the non-profit Windham Foundation of Grafton, Vermont, whose mission is to promote the vitality of Grafton and Vermont's rural communities through its philanthropic and educational programs and its subsidiaries whose operations contribute to these endeavors. When you shop at the Co-op and purchase Grafton Village Cheese you are supporting rural New England farms.

Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Enjoyed in moderation, cheese can help with weight loss as it slows the absorption of carbohydrates, keeping you feeling satisfied after a meal. So an after dinner treat of cheese and wine may be doing you more good than you thought! Cheese also provides us with zinc and biotin that is important for healthy hair, skin and nails. But be careful, cheese can be high in saturated fats so find a good balance in your diet.
Along with our cheese platter Heidi and Suzy from the Co-op selected a few different accompaniments like chutneys and jam that you can find on the end of the cheese case. Stop in and ask Suzy to help select a combination or look at the blackboards above the case for inspiration. The Bakery Box also baked some yummy cheese puffs that go well with a bottle of bubbly, just ask for Elaine, the Co-op's Executive Pastry Chef if you would like a special order.

Everyone at our cheese tasting class also enjoyed chatting with Gus from The Imported Grape as he opened 7 different bottles of wine for us to try with our cheese. Both Gus and Dane, agree that pairings generally are a personal taste but there are a few that you can’t go wrong with, like a strong smoked cheddar with a pinot noir or a fresh one year old cheddar with a Chardonnay. All the wines we tried are available at the Co-op, and did you know that when you buy 6 or more bottles in one transaction at the Co-op you will save 10% off during check out!
You can view all the images from the evening on our Facebook page, click here. Make sure you like us on Facebook to stay up to date on upcoming events at the Co-op. Thank you Dane and Mary from Grafton Village Cheese and Gus from The Imported Grape for a fun and informative evening at the Co-op!
Join us for the next Cheesy Wine Down Wednesday on July 2, when Suzy and Heidi will be creating refreshing summer suggestions with ricotta, mozzarella, burrata and some goat cheeses too. Josh from Horizon will be sampling the July Co-op Wines of the Month from 10SPAN Vineyard and maybe he will open a few more summery bottles for you to enjoy.
The Co-op has some great ways for you to save each month on your wine and cheese purchases. In one transaction purchase any 3 or more bottles of the Wines of the Month and receive $5 off any block of cheese from the cheese case. Click here to download the coupon and find out what wines are currently on sale.
Click here to purchase your tickets and more information.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fast Flavor with Fresh Herbs

by Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG)
Registered Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Coordinator

For all our gorgeous seasons, June may well be the most beautiful month in the New Hampshire garden. Every day we're treated to a show-stopping array of blooms and lush green mounds of happy herbs. The weeds haven't quite taken over (yet). Nothing's really reached its scraggly past-due state. And, at last, it's time to really get in there and *harvest* all those lovely plants for food and medicine! Now is the time to plant the last of your seedlings (those frost-sensitive babies you've sheltered til the last possible moment), to give them the chance to settle in before the heat of summer kicks in. Every year I load up on my annual seedlings and a few new perennials at the Herb & Garden Day plant sale (this Saturday!) and then spend the next day planting them. I really can't wait to have lemongrass, Thai basil, holy basil, lemon verbena, and other favorites at my fingertips once again!

I am excited to also see *lovely* organic and locally grown potted herbs available for sale at the Co-op from Generation Farm - how easy is that? Just pick them up while you're doing your regular grocery shopping and then pop them in the soil! You'll find classic culinary herbs including thyme, parsley, basil, and (a personal favorite) purple basil. We hope to carry more organically grown cut fresh herbs as well from Generation Farm and other local farmers this summer, too! Fresh herbs are one of the best kept secrets of healthy, delicious at-home meals. Whether you're topping off a salad with julienned fresh basil or creating an elaborate concoction, fresh herbs will enhance the flavor of your food without sugar, fat, salt, or even calories.

Flavor with Benefits

With that fresh flavor comes a host of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other beneficial phytochemicals that work in synergy with other ingredients to bring you greater health value. Think that's just a bunch of herbal PR BS? In one study, adding some lemon balm or marjoram to a salad increased the antioxidant profile by 200 percent! Another study determined that adding garlic, ginger, basil, or oregano to your basic tomato/olive oil sauce increases the antioxidant value 50 to 200 percent, too! (Oregano topped the list, and lucky for me that's probably my most-used kitchen spice, especially when tomatoes are involved.) The antioxidant levels of Greek-style lemon and olive oil dressing nearly tripled when garlic, rosemary, oregano, and mint were added. And for Italian dressing, garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano doubled the levels.

Quick Tips for Using Common Herbs

BASIL: This one is easy! Julienne or tear it to add to salad, Mediterranean mixes of cheese and tomatoes or bruschetta, or top off a soup (like this *amazing* roasted tomato-corn-basil soup recipe!). Scramble it into eggs with mozzarella....
Purple basil tastes pretty much like regular basil but offer a punch of color that looks as great in a dish as it does in the garden. Just know that once cooked or purred it will turn an unappealing grey-purple shade, so use it in fresh dishes and as a topper. It holds its flavor very well when dried. Learn more about Thai bail and holy basil here.

      Got too much? 
  • Turn it into pesto: Combine it with some salt, raw garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, and perhaps some nuts/seeds in the food processor. 
  • Make a frozen paste: Puree it with olive oil, then put it into a Ziploc freezer bag. Press it so that it's flat like a book with most of the air removed, label, and freeze it. When you need the flavor of fresh basil in a dish, break a hunk off and add it to the pot.
  • Dry It. Basil can be fussy to dry, so try it in a single layer in the dehydrator, strip the leaves from the stems and crumble it up, and keep it in your spice cabinet for wintertime tomato sauces and stews.
  • Freeze It. Basil can also be tricky to freeze because it tends to turn black (better as the frozen paste, above), but you can freeze whole sprigs plain in a vacuum-sealed bag with good results. I did this with my Thai basil last year and was able to make delicious Thai fried rice in winter.
THYME: The international flavor enhancer, thyme can be added to almost any savory dish for a generic herb-y flavor. I make an all-purpose Italian seasoning blend with equal parts thyme, basil, and oregano that's perfect for tomato sauce, meatballs, sprinkling on dehydrated tomatoes, etc. Also throw it into any saute, soup, or stew with an American, European, Mediterranean, or Middle Eastern flair. It's stellar with sage and mushrooms.

       Got too much?
  • Dry It: Thyme is super easy to dry for winter use. Just pack it loosely (still on the stem) in a bag or basket with another basket as a lid  and put it in a warm dry spot (like your car windshield, parked in the sun). Check it every day to see if it's dry and fluff it around if it's not. Once it crumbles, strip the leaves from the stems and store them in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dark, dry spot. Thyme isn't very juicy, so it might just be done drying within a day!
  • Stuff It: Put whole sprigs of thyme under the skin and inside the cavity of a chicken before you roast it.
  • Make a Tea: Thyme blends well with a lemon wedge, some grated ginger, and honey. Steep it in a thermos for 30-60 minutes to pull the flavor from these leathery leaves. It's particularly nice for sore throats, coughs, and chest congestion.
  • Tincture It: This alcohol-based remedy will keep for up to 10 years on the shelf! Use thyme tincture for chronic lung issues, chest congestion, and antimicrobial action. The flavor is reminiscent of Listerine. Chop and stuff the fresh plant into a 2 or 4 oz jar - get as much in as you can. Cover it with vodka and let sit for one month, then strain it through cheesecloth and squeeze as much liquid out as you can. Store the tincture in a dark bottle in a cool, dark, dry spot. A typical dose is 1-2 squirts (= 30-60 drops or 1-2 ml) mixed in a little water a few times a day. 
  • Infuse It In Honey: Chop up the herb, cover it with honey, and let it sit for a few weeks or so. Warm it a bit and then push the honey out through a strainer (you can use the dregs to make tea). Use the herbed honey to sweeten tea, make salad dressings and marinades, and take by the spoonful for coughs and sore throats (or just because it tastes good.)

PARSLEY: Yet another utilitarian herb! Use parsley any time you want to add fresh green flavor to your dish. It's best fresh or added just at the end of the meal. Great on veggies of all types and as a substitute for cilantro (sorry, I hate cilantro!) in Mexican and Indian dishes. Throw it in eggs, potatoes, sautees...

      Got too much?
  • Juice It! It will increase the antioxidants and up the green ante on any green juice or smoothie with fresh flavor.
  • Make Tabouleh: Basically a Middle Eastern appetizer or meze based on parsley that is *perfect* for summer. Click here for a gluten-free quinoa tabbouleh recipe.
  • Make a Paste (see basil, above)


TARRAGON: This is one of those herbs that finds its way into many a garden but then goes totally unused. Don't fall into this trap - it's delicious! French tarragon has a green anise-y flavor that gives a little bit of sweetness to savory dishes and create a more well-rounded flavor (I particularly like it in combo with oregano and basil). When sweet corn comes into season, snip a little bit of tarragon into succotash and this corn saute recipe. And of course tarragon is classically infused in poached white fish, and creamy soups and sauces. Go light, though - it's easy to overdo tarragon.

      Got Too Much?
  • Make Herb Vinegar: Chop up fresh tarragon and loosely pack it in a jar. Cover it with a good vinegar (apple cider vinegar is healthy but white rice or white wine vinegar will better show off the herb's flavor and color). Use a plastic lid (vinegar eats metal), and let it sit for a few weeks, shaking daily. Strain it out and store it in your spice cabinet to make salad dressings and perk up dishes with a light sprinkle. It will keep for a year or longer.
  • Freeze It: See basil, above, but you don't necessarily need a vacuum-sealed bag.
MINT: For every flavor, there is a mint, but our garden variety mints tend to be peppermint (or the variety of peppermint called chocolate mint), spearmint (and similarly flavored curly mint), and the fuzzy "gift from a friend" apple mint. All make great teas with slightly different flavors, ranging from bright menthol (peppermint) to earthy-minty (applemint) with doublemint gum (spearmint) in between. For culinary purposes, I separate peppermint from the other two and prefer it for anything chocolate. For example, you can puree fresh peppermint leaves with oil to add to brownie mix or just use the dried herb. Spearmint and applemint are more appropriate as a last-second ingredient in Southeast Asian stir fries, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Indian dishes - often in combination with a little lime juice. I love applemint, basil, and lemon balm in fresh spring rolls. A little applemint goes well with Italian seasonings as well and was my Sicilian grandfather's secret ingredient. Spearmint is my favorite for mojitos (and alc-free mockitos). All mints do well with fruit.

      Got Too Much?
  • Dry It (see thyme, above): It's not hard to go through a bunch of dried mint for tea!
  • Make Soda: Take three large sprigs  and poke them into an empty 1-liter bottle (if you plan to re-use the bottle, try to get them in stem-side-up for easier removal later on) and cover with plain seltzer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and drink within the day for the freshest flavor. Apple mint seltzer is our favorite accompaniment to Mexican, Indian, and Asian dinners. It's also wonderfully refreshing for a day of gardening. My husband likes to sweeten it with a little simple syrup (simmer 1 cup of sugar in 1/2 cup water until it dissolves - this will keep in the fridge for a week or longer).

Learn More About Growing & Using Culinary Herbs